‘Zero tituli’ was the phrase Jose Mourinho used as a stick to beat Inter Milan’s trophy-less rivals with during his glittering spell at the San Siro.
This famous line marked a successful period for him in Italian football, but on Wednesday night it risks becoming a catastrophic boomerang for the Special One; should they suffer defeat against Feyenoord in the Europa Conference League final, his first campaign as Roma manager will end full of regrets and with that memorable jibe coming full circle to slap him in the face.
On the flip side, victory in Tirana, Albania, would justify Mourinho’s mind games and divisive comments throughout the course of the season while indicating his young team are on the right track to progress next term. Ahead of Wednesday’s final, Sportsmail is on hand with the big talking points from the Roma camp.
Jose Mourinho previously used the phrase ‘zero title’ to mock Inter Milan’s trophy-less rivals
But that famous jibe could come back to haunt him if Roma suffer defeat against Feyenoord
Rome is home for Jose
There have been times this season when Mourinho has resembled Caligula, the mad emperor of Rome, yet on other occasions he has looked like a ruler enlightened by prudence and wisdom.
Despite this constant shift between irrationality and genius, the Giallorossi has fallen in love with their controversial head coach and he appears unlikely to depart in two years’ time.
The tears he shed in their semi-final victory over Leicester were tears of relief, as reaching the Tirana showpiece has rescued his debut season and postponed a definitive judgment on it until Wednesday night.
However, Roma fans love Mourinho because he is one of them; a passionate supporter on the bench who screams and smiles, who cheers and cries. After an underwhelming end to his time in England he has now found his natural habitat in Rome.
The Portuguese slumped to his nadir when he was sacked by Tottenham last year, which came on the back of dismissal at Manchester United. In his next post he needed a team who understood his delicate situation, and with Roma Mourinho has found exactly that.
Mourinho has often shifted between madness and genius on the Roma touchline this season
But the Giallorossi faithful have fallen in love with their controversial coach and fully taken him in
Any definitive judgment on Mourinho’s first season as Roma boss must wait until Wednesday
Wednesday’s Europa Conference League battle against Feyenoord will be his fifth European final as a manager. The previous four have all resulted in silverware: 2003 UEFA Cup, 2004 Champions League, 2010 Champions League and 2017 Europa League.
The Conference League is undoubtedly a minor one, but at the end of a frustrating season Mourinho capturing European title No 5 would lift the spirit of the club.
Zeman not buying trophy bid
Not everyone associated with Roma is encouraged by their Conference League run, nevertheless.
Former Giallorossi manager Zdenek Zeman blasted the competition as ‘low-level’ during an interview with Rai Radio 1 earlier this year, while also hitting out at Mourinho.
Did Did Mourinho lead Roma to the final? It’s a sign of what the Conference League is all about, ‘the Czech-Italian said.
‘What competition is it? It is a low-level competition, a new cup where football’s underdeveloped countries play, despite the fact that there have also been great teams. Is the Italian one a low-level league? Yes, that is what I meant. ‘
Former Roma boss Zdenek Zeman is not at all impressed by their run in the Conference League
Mourinho, though, was having none of it and issued a typically stern response.
‘Do you expect a coach who won 25 trophies to respond to someone who won Serie B twice?’ he said. ‘If you ask me a question about Giovanni Trapattoni or Fabio Capello, I am happy to answer, but Zeman… please. I can’t. ‘
Karsdorp is Giallorossi’s spy
One of the most important men in Wednesday’s final is Roma right-back Rick Karsdorp, who will lock horns with his former club out in Albania.
Karsdorp became a central figure for Feyenoord and ultimately attracted Roma’s attention while plying his trade for the Dutch club, meaning he could also serve as a spy for Mourinho heading into the game.
He will know all of his old side’s secrets and could help Roma gain an advantage on the night, and he also finds himself in tip-top physical condition for the final.
The Netherlands international has been a key member of Mourinho’s squad this term, racking up 50 appearances in all competitions.
Rick Karsdorp, who signed for Roma from Feynoord, could serve as Mourinho’s secret spy
Abraham vs Dessers
Feyenoord have scored 28 goals in their 12 Europa Conference League games this season, while Roma have produced a return of 27. Those figures suggest Wednesday’s final could be a high-scoring affair.
Though both sides will be relying on their red-hot center-forwards to propel them to victory in Tirana; Feyenoord’s Cyriel Dessers is the Conference League’s top scorer with 10 goals, and Roma’s Tammy Abraham is only one behind him on 9.
Abraham therefore has the chance to usurp Dessers and claim the tournament’s Golden Boot, which would cap what has been a sensational debut season in Rome.
The former Chelsea striker has fired home 27 goals in all competitions, with his tally of 17 in Serie A setting a new record for an Englishman in Italy’s top flight.
Yet, Dessers will be giving Roma defenders sleepless nights leading up to their meeting at the Air Albania Stadium, as he too has produced an impressive return in all competitions (20).
The battle of the frontmen could be crucial when Mourinho and Arne Slot’s sides go head to head.
Wednesday’s final in Tirana could be decided by either Tammy Abraham or Cyriel Dessers
Abraham (right) has enjoyed a superb campaign for Roma and could still finish as the Conference League’s top scorer
But Dessers leads the way with 10 goals for Feyenoord in the competition so far this season
Third time lucky?
Roma will be contesting their third UEFA final on Wednesday night, and the club’s first for 31 years.
The Giallorossi suffered defeat in their only other two appearances; losing the 1984 Champions League showpiece against Liverpool on penalties and coming unstuck over two legs against Inter Milan in the 1991 UEFA Cup final.
Mourinho and Co will be hoping it is third time lucky against Feyenoord.
Fears of fan violence
In Tirana there will be an estimated 1,000 police officers patrolling the streets ahead of the Conference League final as they look to avoid unrest amongst both sets of supporters.
Feyenoord’s history is not too encouraging, with the Dutch side’s fans devastating their own capital prior to a Europa League last-32 match in 2015 and severely damaging the famous Bernini fountain.
Giant screens displaying the match will only be guaranteed inside the Olympic Stadium, where over 50,000 fans will be present. According to La Repubblica, there will be special checkpoints for pubs in the city center and the fountains of Piazza Navona, Trevi, Della Barcaccia and Piazza del Popolo will be cordoned off.